The omicron variant of the coronavirus might have symptoms similar to the common cold because the new variant literally has a genetic code from the common cold inside of it.

Per Reuters, the omicron variant likely acquired a mutation — one of its more than 30 mutations, mind you — from a snippet of genetic material from the common cold. Meaning, yes, the omicron variant mutated to include parts of the common cold’s genetic makeup.

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Researchers — who published a study in early December on OSF Preprints about this idea — found this after seeing genetic material in the common cold and the omicron variant.

  • Venky Soundararajan, who works at the Cambridge, Massachusetts-based data analytics firm Nference and led the study, said this is why omicron has made itself look “more human.”

The small bit of the common cold inside of omicron “could mean the virus transmits more easily, while only causing mild or asymptomatic disease,” according to Reuters.

Professor Tim Spector, who helps run the ZOE COVID symptoms app that monitors COVID-19 cases and symptoms, recently said that the omicron variant can be hard to find because it does not lead to symptoms different than those you see in the common cold, according to The Independent, a U.K. news outlet.

  • “Omicron is probably more, much more similar to the mild variants we’re seeing in people who have been vaccinated with Delta than anything else,” he said.
  • “And so it is going to be producing cold-like symptoms that people won’t recognize as Covid if they just believe the official government advice.”

Researchers are still trying to figure out if the omicron variant creates more severe symptoms compared to other variants. Most indications suggest the variant does not lead to more severe illness. But there’s some early lab work that suggests the omicron variant can evade vaccines, boosters and natural immunity, raising questions about what we should expect next from the omicron variant.